I must be in love.
When I look into Miss Elizabeth’s dark eyes, I am captured. In her gaze, I see my heart, and I am swept away. Miss Elizabeth is the balm that assuages my loneliness. When we are together, I am at peace, and we are one.
But how do I tell her? And when?
From the Personal Journal of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy
Fitzwilliam Darcy sat in the library, a cup of lukewarm coffee on a small table beside him. He was tired, and it was only mid-morning. Unofficial courting could do that, and he had his hands full with Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
Ignoring his need to kiss her, to love her completely and with great passion, took its toll. He reminded himself he did this to protect her. Elizabeth was not one to heed warnings of brigands or abduction. She had told him as much the first and only time he had attempted to broach the subject.
As to the rest…
Though he admired Miss Elizabeth Bennet, and she did not act as a social climber, he had to be certain of her affection. Too many ladies’ interests stemmed from his inheritance and lands.
Including his aunt’s ambitions for Anne.
Darcy rubbed his palm over his forehead. He wished Bingley were here. Not that Bingley had any sense when judging women.
No, better Bingley was absent.
“Darcy, there you are.” Richard Fitzwilliam strode into the library. “We have a problem.”
“I believe the issue is more than simple brigands.”
Darcy yawned. “I apologize.” He sipped his coffee. “You said ladies were being accosted, their jewels stolen.”
“Yes, and a servant was abducted. Which is the crux of the problem. Miss Emily Davis was not seized from a carriage! According to those the constable and I questioned, going by foot to meet with a local fruit-seller who often allowed her to ride on his wagon with the vegetables when she visited her mother on her half-days.
“Perhaps the fruit-seller was involved?”
“Doubtful. He waited until dusk for her arrival, and others in the villagers confirmed it, before returning to his home. And the fruit seller showed genuine distress at Miss Davis’ disappearance. Worse, she is not the only servant gone missing these past few months.”
“Servants run away.”
“Attractive young maids, many of whom rumored to be overly close with their male employers?” Richard sighed. “Something in this sits ill.”
Darcy nodded. Likely the young maids were given a sum and sent off to raise their bastards before the evidence of the gentleman’s infidelity became obvious. While such behavior disgusted Darcy, it was not uncommon in his class. Darcy, having seen the consequence of his father’s failure on his family, vowed never to allow himself such a weakness.
If the missing women were servants, then likely they had run off abducted, and Elizabeth was safe. Thus Darcy no longer had an excuse to keep happening upon her during her morning walks.
“There is something more sinister afoot,” Richard declared. “We must speak with and warn Lady Catherine’s servants and those of the village.”
“Are you certain this is necessary?” Darcy asked.
“I am certain of nothing. But my gut tells me something is wrong. And that instinct has kept me alive thus far. You will need to speak with Aunt Catherine. If I ask, she may ignore me, but she denies you nothing.”
“I will.” Darcy did not doubt his cousin’s instincts. When they were children, he had snatched Darcy back from crossing the log over the stream, as they had done countless times throughout that summer.
A minute later, after they had climbed down to the bank to determine how to cross, that branch had broken. Darcy would have broken a leg or his neck, if he had crossed that day.
Richard clapped a hand on Darcy’s shoulder. “Good. And I will warn the Collins’ and their guests, Miss Lucas and Miss Bennet.”
Darcy’s expression froze at the mention of Elizabeth’s name. It was only a moment, but Richard’s eyes narrowed. “I see.”
“There is nothing for you to see.”
“It is not Miss Lucas, I presume.”
Richard smiled. “Aunt Catherine will be appalled.”
Darcy shrugged. Aunt Catherine was often appalled.